Unite ballot for strike action over NHS pay

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Unite, the country's largest union, is balloting 88,000 members over possible strike action in the autumn over the government's ‘insulting' pay offer, unilaterally imposed in England and Wales.

Health worker members of Unite in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive ballot papers from today asking them whether they wish to take strike action or industrial action short of a strike over pay.

It is estimated the 1.3 million workers in the NHS have seen their pay fall by up to 15% in real terms since the coalition came to power in May 2010.

Unite has 100,000 members in the health service, of which about 12,000 are in Scotland. The ballot closes on 26 September.

Rachael Maskell, head of health at Unite said: "We are confident of a positive result from our members. But we also wish to reassure the public that any industrial action will be carefully calibrated to balance the anger that our members feel about their shrinking pay packets, with abiding concern for patient care which is key for the health professionals we represent."

The pay situation is at different stages in the four countries of the UK: in England, there was a 1% offer.

In Wales has agreed to a ‘living wage' for all staff and an imposed one-off payment of £160, however, there is a wider dispute on terms and conditions.

In Northern Ireland, there has been no decision made on pay.

However, in Scotland, the devolved government has agreed to pay the one per cent pay rise to all staff as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body (PRB) and to implement the ‘living wage' by paying an extra £300 to low paid workers.

Unite has accepted this and will, therefore, not be balloting its members in Scotland.

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